Nothing but net

TJ Scott is scor­ing big with the Pan­thers. The seni­or guard has helped Fels go 5-3 this sea­son and is now be­ing re­cruited to play col­lege ball.


He al­ways has had the urge to help oth­ers.

That’s why TJ Scott plans to study medi­cine at col­lege next year. And that’s why he’s be­come such a force on the bas­ket­ball courts.

ldquo;I want to be a doc­tor be­cause I want to help people,” said Scott, a seni­or at Samuel Fels High School. “I’m the type of per­son who, when I see someone down, it mo­tiv­ates me to go harder be­cause I want to be able to help them.”

This mo­tiv­a­tion also is be­ne­fi­cial to Scott as an ath­lete. A 6-foot-2 guard and for­ward on the hard­wood, Scott has helped the Pan­thers go 5-3 in the Pub­lic League B Di­vi­sion, good enough for fourth place. (Samuel Fels was sched­uled to face En­gin­eer­ing and Sci­ence on Tues­day, after the Times went to press this week.)

Samuel Fels squeezed past rival George Wash­ing­ton with a thrill­ing 57-55 vic­tory on Thursday. Al­though the Pan­thers struggled throughout the first half, they didn’t let the Eagles get away.

George Wash­ing­ton gained an early lead and held it for most of the game. Samuel Fels got close on sev­er­al oc­ca­sions — even ty­ing the score — but the Pan­thers nev­er claimed the lead.

That is, un­til the last second. 

With 25 seconds left in the game, Kyree West­brooks net­ted a lay­up for the Pan­thers, ty­ing the score at 55. The Eagles then had pos­ses­sion of the ball and stra­tegic­ally let the shot clock run. However, a botched shot by Wash­ing­ton and a quick Fels re­bound gave the Pan­thers time for a mir­acle.

Ni­jay Kelly was the hero. The Fels seni­or scored the win­ning bas­ket as the buzzer echoed to end the game.

ldquo;That is much to the cred­it of the kids. We were down by ten go­ing in­to last two minutes of the game,” said Fels head coach Mark Heimerdinger. “The kids were very fo­cused and stayed pos­it­ive. They showed a lot of re­si­li­ency and tough­ness, and pulled the game out with a win.”

Kelly had a team-high 21 points; he has av­er­aged 16.7 points per game this sea­son. Scott was close be­hind, with 18 points.

“We star­ted play­ing really hard. We star­ted mak­ing shots,” said Scott. “We needed to put the ball in the bas­ket, and we star­ted to do that. We turned our de­fense up and we listened to our coach.

“That last minute was the longest minute of my life. All I was think­ing about was get­ting the ball,” he ad­ded with a smile. “Coach says if we go after loose balls, we’re go­ing to win games. We went after loose balls. We got a couple steals and we got back in the game.”

Samuel Fels has en­dured a roller-coast­er ride this sea­son. The Pan­thers had a rough start, with con­sec­ut­ive losses to Uni­versity City and Del-Val, but then won five of their next six games.

“We are kind of up and down,” Scott ex­plained. “One game, we’ll play great, and then the next game it’s like, ‘What the hell?’ We need to be con­sist­ent and stop play­ing down to people and we’ll be fine.”

Scott has em­braced a pivotal role on this year’s squad. He’s cur­rently av­er­aging just shy of 12 points per game, and he’s a team co-cap­tain. A trans­fer stu­dent from Mar­tin Luth­er King, Scott joined the Pan­thers last winter, and his nine points per game made him the team’s second-highest scorer.

“Last year, TJ was a first-year varsity play­er for us. I ac­tu­ally had to call him in and ex­plain to him that his be­ha­vi­or on the court was not ac­cept­able,” Heimerdinger ex­plained. “TJ was let­ting his emo­tions get the best of him. If he thought there was a bad call, he was re­act­ing in a bad man­ner and that was af­fect­ing his play as the game went on, be­cause he was so wrapped up in what happened two or three pos­ses­sions ago.

“Much to his cred­it he changed it around to be­come a co-cap­tain this year,” Heimerdinger con­tin­ued. “He’s a kid that goes out there and plays as hard as he can, and that has car­ried over to the rest of the team.”

A nat­ive of Ja­maica, Scott has called many places home over the past four years. His fam­ily ini­tially settled in New York when he was 13, then moved to North Philly and, fi­nally, the North­east.

“I was at Mar­tin Luth­er King. I was on the team but I didn’t really get in. There were bet­ter play­ers than me. I played two minutes here and there,” said Scott, de­scrib­ing his fresh­man and sopho­more sea­sons. “We moved to the North­east, so my mom en­rolled me in Fels and I fell in love with my coach.”

Scott’s trav­el­ing tend­en­cies aren’t fin­ished just yet. The seni­or is cur­rently look­ing at col­leges, ap­ply­ing to some as far away as Cali­for­nia and Ok­lahoma. There is one much closer to home — Gwynedd Mercy Col­lege — that is cur­rently re­cruit­ing Scott.

He hasn’t made a fi­nal de­cision yet. In the mean­time, Scott is work­ing hard to im­prove his aca­dem­ic and ath­let­ic re­sume.

“I love my classes. They’re go­ing great … ex­cept French. I’m not really in­to French, but I’m try­ing really hard. I love math and sci­ence,” said Scott. “I study and I prac­tice every day. My coach is con­fid­ent in me. I’m mo­tiv­ated. I’m work­ing hard be­cause I want to keep get­ting bet­ter.” ••


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